Of Birds and Storms
August 26, 2011
The JerseyBirds e-mail list had a useful recent exchange regarding the dangers faced by birds during storms. I reprint part of it here
Mike Gochfeld writes:
... watching for storm driven birds shows us a special side of their adaptive behavior.
Birds take a very heavy beating from bad weather. Even without a hurricane, even without storms, coastal nesting birds for example terns and skimmers, experience far more nesting wipeouts than successes. Moreover, as we have usurped the beaches, the birds have taken to nesting on salt marshes where they typically get their feet wet at high tide, and often experience total colony wipeouts.
So I share your concern over the birdlife. They have evolved strategies for survival under adverse conditions----but extreme conditions take a heavy toll. And with out climate manipulations we may be heading for worse and more frequent storms, worse than they've ever had to cope with.
But there is one thing----birds are very sensitive to air pressure so they can detect that falling barometer long before we can, and get out of the way (at least of small storms). If you look at the blog you'll see that Irene is a huge storm.
Most of the storm driven birds that we see after hurricanes are on their way home, sometimes fighting against the wind. Many don't make it (probably don't even get this far), but many do survive.
The seabirds blown way inland pretty clearly never get re-oriented. But the Delaware Bay birds will get back out to sea, and have a good chance of surviving.
Anyway, the birds do the best they can.